If You See This Invasive “Miracle” Weed, Don’t Kill It, Eat It

Purslane (Verdolaga) is a medicine, not a menace!  It’s also a culinary delight now making its way back into farmer’s markets and fancy restaurants.

Purslane is one of many weeds in your garden that you might not want to kill. The super-food beloved by Ghandi, is now making a comeback. 
It sprouts from pavement cracks, invades gardens and is, apparently a “ miracle plant,” according to Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Centre for Genetics, Nutrition and Health. Simopoulos discovered while working at the National Institutes of Health that the plant had the highest level of Omega-3 fatty acids of any other green plant.
The tear-shaped leaves of this succulent plant are also packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Plus, they’re delicious.
The cucumber-crisp leaves have a tart,  lemony tang, with a peppery kick, according to the chef-owner of Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano in Chicago Sergio Vitale. Vitale grew up eating the weed in in southern Italy.”When you bite into it, it bursts,” he says. Purslane apparently tastes great in salads, stir-fries or straight out of the ground.

Early Americans, including Martha Washington, enjoyed it both raw and pickled, but its use largely died out in the early 1900s.

Thankfully, farmers, foragers and forward-thinking chefs are beginning to rediscover this beneficial weed.

Purslane and Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

2 cups young purslane leaves and stems, rinsed and roughly chopped

45gms  basil leaves, rinsed

1 clove garlic

45 gms toasted almonds

Juice from half a lemon

50ml olive oil

 Salt and pepper to taste

Add purslane, basil, garlic, almonds and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. With processor running, stream in olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy on a toasted sandwich, over roasted vegetables or meat or tossed with pasta. 

1. Omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane is a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids that are so scarce in the American diet, but so essential for brain and heart health. If you’re a vegan, this is one of the best sourcesyou’ll find.
2. Antioxidants. Purslane is loaded with antioxidants, such as glutathione which protect cells from damage and slow aging.
3. Minerals. Purslane is a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, copper, folate and selenium, all lacking in the Standard American Diet and essential to good health.
4. Vitamin C. Great source of this immune-boosting vitamin.
5. Beta-carotene. Purslane is rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which most of us are seriously lacking in.
6. Melatonin. Purslane is a rare plant-source of melatonin, a hormone essential to regulating sleep.
7. Lowers cholesterol. Purslane contains betalain, an antioxidant that prevents cholesterol from damaging blood vessels and has a positive effect on LDL cholesterol levels.
8. Tryptophan. Purslane contains this important amino acid that regulates mood and fights depression.